The Food Industry is Hungry for Social Media!

Social Media is a relatively new marketing and public relations strategy for companies.  It allows companies to create conversations with their consumers, and to promote products from a grassroots perspective.  Not joining the social media movement will likely prove detrimental for companies, as those non-joiners will be left out from an important movement.  For food manufacturers, usually a business-to-consumer industry, connecting with consumers is key.  The benefit of social media for food manufacturers is the direct conversation with the consumer which can lead to quicker realization of quality issues, product ideas and innovations, and promotional activities.

Measuring Return on Investment

A summer 2011 study by just-food and just-drinks found that over half of executives in the food and drink industry do not measure or monitor the return on investment on social media. However, approximately the same percentage of executives did report in the survey that their companies have a formal social media strategy, but only half of those had a specific portion of their marketing budget devoted to social media.

Just-food writes that most companies in consumer-facing industries, such as food manufacturers, are embracing social media.   Although there is consensus that these companies should utilize social media, there is no agreement on what a social media strategy should involve and how it can be used effectively.

Two examples of food manufacturers using social media are Peanut Butter and Co. and Annie’s Homegrown.   After evaluating both companies’ use of social media, I believe Peanut Butter and Co. uses social media more effectively.  Here’s why:

Peanut Butter & Co.

Peanut Butter & Co operates a restaurant in New York City, and is also well known for its unique and natural peanut butter flavors like Cinnamon Raisin Swirl and Dark Chocolate Dreams.  At the bottom of PBC’s website, www.ilovepeanutbutter.com, there are links to many of PBC’s social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and various blogs.  The social media sites were also easy to find when doing a Google search.  In addition, I found a Yelp page for PBC, as well as many unique bloggers using PBC products in their blog recipes.  One blog even discussed the return on investment from a single PBC tweet – it made the blogger Amanda MacArthur (bio/blog) purchase $35 of PBC peanut butter.  PBC’s founder, Lee Zalben, also has a personal blog prominently featured on the PBC website.  The company is actively using social media and makes it easy for consumers to engage with the company.

PBC seems to be a company that values social media, and perhaps it has not figured out a way to calculate its social media ROI, but at least one of its customers has.

Are there any food manufacturing companies that you connect with occasionally or regularly on social media sites?  Which companies?  Which social media sites?

Annie’s Homegrown

Annie’s Homegrown manufactures organic and all natural foods like macaroni and cheese, granola bars, fruit snacks, and salad dressings.  Annie’s website, www.annies.com has easy links to Facebook and Twitter, but not to its other social media sites.

I was able to find Annie’s YouTube site and Flickr site.  Additionally, Annie’s hosts a recipes section on its website which allows consumers to submit their recipes, but the recipes are not posted live and there is no comment section.  Backbone completed an analysis in 2005 on corporate blogs which discussed Annie’s blog as written by its mascot Bernie, but I could not find any current blog authored by Annie’s.

In summary, Annie’s is using social media, but it is difficult for a consumer to connect with Annie’s on some social media sites.  I would guess that if Annie’s could compute its ROI of social media activities, it would be less than PBC’s ROI because the extent of its social media footprint is much smaller.

Are there any food manufacturing companies that you wish were easier to connect with on social media?

Social Media in the Food Manufacturing Industry

Most food manufacturers are consumer-driven companies and thus are using or at least starting to use social media as part of their marketing and public relations strategy.  However, top executives do not know what the ROI of their social media investment, if their company even dedicates a portion of its budget to social media, is.  For the manufacturers like Peanut Butter & Co., the next key step will be evaluating ROI so that concentrated social media strategies can be formalized.  For others like Annie’s, expanding its message on social media would be a worthwhile strategy even before considering ROI so that the company can have a diverse background from which to calculate statistics.

Do you have any suggestions or feedback for food manufacturers that you, as a consumer, want to make these companies aware of?  I look forward to your comments!

Sources

Backbone Media.  (2005).  Corporate blogging:  Is it worth the hype?  Corporate blogging case studies.  Retrieved from http://www.backbonemedia.com/blogsurvey/44-Case-Studies-Annies-Homegrown.htm#AnniesBlogging.

MacArthur, A.  (2011 March 14).  How social media made me buy four jars of peanut butter.  Retrieved from http://www.mequoda.com/articles/social-media-strategy/how-social-media-made-me-buy-four-jars-of-peanut-butter/#.Ty8yKsXpHNU.

PR Newswire (2011 August 3).  Food and beverage industry failing to grasp social media potential.  Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/food-and-beverage-industry-failing-to-grasp-social-media-potential-126665353.html.

Thomas, J.  (2011 June 30).  Social media – the landscape from Facebook to Twitter.  Retrieved from http://www.just-food.com/management-briefing/social-media-the-landscape-from-facebook-to-twitter_id115808.aspx.

Peanut Butter and Co. social media sites

http://ilovepeanutbutter.com/
http://ilovepeanutbutter.com/recipes/
http://www.facebook.com/PeanutButterCo
http://www.flickr.com/groups/peanutbutterco/
http://www.seriouseats.com/thats_nuts/?ref=columns
http://www.yelp.com/biz/peanut-butter-and-co-new-york
http://www.youtube.com/user/PeanutButterCo
https://twitter.com/#!/PeanutButterCo

Annie’s Homegrown social media sites

http://www.annies.com/
http://www.facebook.com/annieshomegrown
https://twitter.com/#!/annieshomegrown
http://www.youtube.com/annieshomegrown
http://www.flickr.com/photos/annieshomegrown
http://www.annies.com/recipes

6 thoughts on “The Food Industry is Hungry for Social Media!

  1. Hi Sara,
    I enjoyed reading your post. Your perspective is B2C. I think it’s interesting to also give some attention to B2B. As the brands you mention evolve and grow, it seems they may want to emphasize the B2B market. Specifically, I think it’s interesting to see the differences in SM use in B2C companies versus B2B companies. I researched a digital marketing blog that nicely explains the priority differences between the two company types. The blog is here: http://blog.inwise.com/b2b-vs-b2c-marketing-a-study-summing-up-the-differences.html. On the blog, in a piechart, I see 75% of B2C companies are most active on Facebook, while 34% of B2B companies are most active on Facebook. This example confirms that both need to utilize SM. Moreover, SM use should be strategic.
    Leterio

    • Thanks for your comment! B2B is an interesting perspective for food manufacturing. Many food manufacturers have consumers (you, me and the rest of the folks in the grocery store) and customers (the grocery store, distributors, food service companies). They have to market to both consumers and customers. In this situation, many social media tools may be more appropriate for marketing to consumers, but there may be circumstances where using social media marketing to connect with customers is appropriate too. After all, the customers are likely connecting with their consumers via social media! According to the article you found (thanks for sharing!), the most frequently used tools to interact with the customers are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while the most frequently used tools to interact with Consumers is Facebook. I’m not surprised by the differences, are you?

  2. As you mentioned it is difficult for owners and executives to be able to graps the ROI of a social media marketing campaign. That being potentially creating a report based on other similar companies in the industry and how they have seen financial gains through social media would be enticing to an executive. Being able to provide some sort of ease to the executives mind is important when introducing what is presummed new business tactics to he or she.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree that making executives feel comfortable is an important part of a social media strategy, especially at the beginning. There is a blog on this very subject that is interesting. The author describes these steps: create a healthy social media culture, address barriers, present benefits, and make entry easy. First and foremost, it is crucial to have thought through the way you will address the executive’s concerns prior to pitching him/her on the idea.

      Source:
      Levin, L. (7 December 2011). How to provide social media support to executives. Retrieved from: http://www.jobacle.com/blog/how-to-provide-social-media-support-to-executives.html

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